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What Does Doctor-Patient Confidentiality Entail?

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
March 03, 2017

Question: What does doctor patient confidentiality entail?

Answer: Thank you for writing.

Doctor-patient confidentiality is derived from the special relationship created when a patient interacts with a physician. It is based upon the general principle that individuals seeking medical help or advice should not be fearful that their medical concerns or conditions will be disclosed to others.

The professional duty of confidentiality covers not only what patients may reveal to doctors, but also what doctors may say to other people. In addition, confidentiality covers all medical records, including tests, surgeries, scans, etc. The duty of confidentiality continues even after a patient stop seeing or being treated by a specific doctor. Once doctors are under a duty of confidentiality, they cannot divulge any medical information about their patients to third parties without patient consent. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.

Doctor-patient confidentiality has ethical and legal implications. The scope of the duty of doctor-patient confidentiality varies from state to state. However, no federal law governs doctor-patient confidentiality.

MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health's website for patients and their families and friends. This website is produced by the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, and it provides information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues. MedlinePlus offers reliable, up-to-date health information, anytime, anywhere, at no cost. MedlinePlus has information on doctor-patient confidentiality in the link below.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001947.htm

Thank you again for writing. I wish you all the best.

Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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